Okemos: Not for Students?

Sean Kellehan–Dec. 10, 2010

OKEMOS, Mich–When it comes to student life in Okemos, the phrase “blink and you’ll miss it” comes to mind.

With the center of the community being under three miles from Michigan State University’s (MSU) large campus, it has the possibility of having a large and active student population, but strangely, it doesn’t.

“It is pretty quiet,” Meridian Police Chief David Hall said. “There’s a scattering of students here and there around the township.”

It’s not to say there aren’t any students that live within Okemos, there are. Even so, recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that only 14.5 percent of the population of Okemos are in the age range of a college-going adult, with the median age of the community being 38.9 years old.

This data begs the question, what’s the reason behind the small student population?

Okemos provides a variety of housing options that, if they chose, students could take advantage of. In fact, a quick search of Google yields 14 apartments complexes available for rent and that doesn’t even count other residential rental properties scattered across the community.

“If they [students] move into Okemos, basically they are moving into a bedroom community of the university, but they’re outnumbered greatly by everyone that lives around then.” Okemos resident and Senior Academic Specialist in the Engineering college at MSU Craig Gunn said.

Talking to local businesses only seems to confirm the lack of students traveling into or living in the area.

Travelers Club International Restaurant and Tuba Museum is located at Okemos’ “Four Corners,” a group of businesses on Hamilton and Okemos Road that some residents refer to as downtown Okemos. A car ride down Grand River Avenue, or a hop on CATA bus route number one would get you to this tiny, fun and quirky eatery, but the staff almost never sees students walk through their doors.

“I’m kinda surprised by the lack of students that come in here, the crowd seems older for the most part,” waiter at Traveler’s Club Santos Ramos said. “Partially it’s the location, I’m sure, because we’re outside of East Lansing, and I don’t think people realize how close it is to the number one bus line.”

The story is the same for other local businesses in Okemos.

“We see a fair amount, but it’s not like a coffee shop,” Owner of Ace Hardware in Okemos Jim Raynak said.

Okemos library Public Services Head Sean Lyons said it’s not uncommon to see college-age students to be studying in the library.

Local businesses may not get much foot traffic from students, but there is one thing in Okemos that does, chain and franchise businesses. Thankfully for Okemos, they have a lot of them.

A drive down the stretch of Grand River Avenue that runs through Okemos will have you looking at more chain restaurants or big-box retailers than local businesses.

The Best Buy store near Grand River Avenue and Okemos Road gets about 40 to 50 percent of its business from students, store employee Halston Elezi said. Students can also almost always be seen the community’s Meijer, or across the street at Meridian Mall.

In the end though, looking at data (from the U.S. Census Bureau) about the community shows that even if students are choosing to shop in Okemos, they aren’t necessarily choosing to stay.

That same data also shows that Okemos is more of a family-oriented community. There are 5,442 family homes in the community, as opposed to 3,443 single homes.

MSU professor Clark Radcliffe chose to move his family from East Lansing to Okemos in 1988 because of that fact.

“Okemos is a very unique community, lots of degrees, lots of professional people,” Radcliffe said. “It’s not a university kind of place, Okemos is fairly isolated, but convenient.”

Through all of this it seems as if Okemos is not really a valid option for MSU students to make a home in, but even so, some students still do choose to call it home. One of those students is Journalism student Vicari Vollmar.

Vollmar is living in Okemos for her second year this semester. She couldn’t be happier with her decision and tried to dismiss some of the excuses students have for not living in Okemos.

“The first complaint that other students have is it’s too far away,” Vollmar said. “Really my apartment is only five miles away, and half the cost of apartments in East Lansing.”

Even with her optimism, Vollmar does agree that there’s not that much to do.

“Generally when you live in East Lansing, the majority of your time is going to be spend downtown, as far as Okemos goes, the mall would be the main attraction,” Vollmar said. “There’s not anything that’s really student-oriented.”

Vollmar doesn’t let that fact stop her from enjoying her living situation, which she likes not only because it’s more relaxed, but also because of it’s cost.

“It’s kind of a hidden treasure,” Vollmar said, “it’s not really that far and you get the same amenities for $300 less.”

The Big Picture: Student Impact on Okemos

Click here to view the video

Craig Gunn: “Weekend Watchers”

Click here to view the audio slideshow

Okemos Infographic

Click here to view the infographic

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Final Project: Looking back at changes in OPS

OPS still facing cost increases, despite school closings
By Annie Perry
Dec. 10, 2010

OKEMOS, Mich.—Okemos Public Schools is still facing cost increases, despite saving $1.7 million this year by closing two elementary schools and reconfiguring the middle schools.

According to the state budget, funding to K-12 education increased in Michigan during the past ten years, but Okemos Public Schools Director of Finance Robert Clark said the increase in funds may not be keeping up with inflation or rising costs. Clark said costs are mainly associated with retirement and health benefits.

The state retirement rate was around 11 percent during the 1999-2000 year, Clark said. This means that 11 percent of every payroll dollar a district gives its teachers and staff goes to the state for the employees’ retirement. That rate has is now at 20.66 percent, almost doubling during the past ten years and jumping nearly four percentage points from last year. Each percentage point costs the district around $250,000, so the increase from last year raised Okemos’ costs by almost a million dollars “without even doing anything,” Clark said.

“In other words, we didn’t hire anybody, we didn’t increase anyone’s benefits voluntarily. This is a mandated, state of Michigan imposition at this level to the various districts. To all the districts,” Clark said. “I say ‘imposition’ because the ability to negotiate that doesn’t exist. The districts have no power over that, no say in it.”

In addition to an increase in retirement costs, the district faces increases in costs related to health benefits. Health benefits to Michigan schools is primarily supported by MESSA and increased by 21 percent this year, costing the district about another million dollars, Clark said.

Cost savings associated with closing the two elementary schools exceeded $1.7 million, but those savings are already “eaten alive by just those two cost factors,” Clark said.

“Our need to close those buildings was based on something quite less daunting than what we ended up facing,” Clark said. “The time we spent making the decision to close those buildings was such that we had made that call almost a full year ahead of time in order to prepare the community for that transition.”

The decision to close the schools

A facilitator and committee made of parents, faculty and community members met throughout the 2008-2009 school year to look  at options for the district to save money, Okemos Deputy Superintendent Patty Trelstad said.

“We went through this whole process of identifying potential options to save money,” Trelstad said. “That’s what the goal was: to get the district to be more efficient.”

Trelstad said the district did not have enough students and had too many buildings. The schools were not filled to capacity and there was inequity among classroom sizes; a third grade class in one building may have 16 students, whereas one at another school has 28, she said.

Moving the students to fewer schools improves the efficiency of the classrooms, because class sizes are now around 24 students for all three traditional schools, Trelstad said. This also saves on added costs, such as paying for a principal, custodian, secretary, lunch servers, and librarian.

Okemos resident Deborah Kim said she is sad Wardcliff Elementary closed, but that she trusts the decision the district made.

“I don’t know how much money they can save if they close two schools, but I just trust them . They know how to manage money,” Kim said. “We are tax payers, but I just trust them because I don’t know how the money goes and how much they can save.”

The general education curriculum did not have significant changes when the district reorganized the schools, but designing a program for fifth and sixth grades at Kinawa was the trickiest part, Trelstad said. The district offers the same kind of general education program the fifth graders would receive at a traditional elementary school and the sixth graders at a traditional middle school.

Not a new story

Even in the years districts saw an increase in per pupil allowance, cost factors still exceeded additional revenue and created deficit problems across the state for school districts, Clark said.

Okemos did not have to cut costs in 2004-2005 because the district was able to sell land to cover additional costs, but Clark said the district had cost cuts totaling $10-$12 million in the last 10 years, aside from the need to close buildings.

“This is not a sudden, hit the iceberg thing in Michigan,” he said. “It’s been coming for years, we’ve seen trends along those lines for years, where the increase just is not keeping pace with the various cost burdens that the districts face.”

Okemos is not the only district in Michigan that closed schools recently. Farmington Public Schools, which has about three times as many students as Okemos, closed four elementary schools and reconfigured the middle schools at the end of the 2009 school year. According t0 a document released by the district last year, this move saves Farmington $30.8 million during the next five years.

“The conception may be that a district funded as well as Okemos, or Farmington Hills, or Novi, or Northville has all these reserves, that they’re not affected by this funding crunch; well, they are,” Clark said. “Their costs increase that same level as every other district, relative to the level they started. It’s a fallacy to think that there are immune districts, that this problem is not going to hit the more well-to-do districts.”

Clark said there are some districts who have not yet been hit, and others who took longer to be affected by the rising costs. Okemos, he said, was affected later than other districts that are not as heavily funded.

“Ultimately, it is going to hit every district in Michigan, unless something is changed in the fundamental equation,” Clark said. “It’s a two-sided equation: there’s revenue and there’s cost. Something has to give on each side in order to make this thing work.”

 

Map of OPS elementary schools

Click for an interactive graphic showing which OPS elementary schools closed and what the buildings are now used for.

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Final Project: Andrew Atwal MSU vs PSU

A Recollection of a day never to be forgotten

By: Andrew Atwal

Dec. 9, 2010

What would a college student be doing up at about 4:00 a.m. over Thanksgiving break, or during any weekend for that matter?

Well, this was a day like no other.

My friend and I decided to make the 220-mile journey from Pennington, NJ to State College, Penn.

We ended up getting on our way to Penn State University at about 5:00 a.m. and would arrive slightly before 9:00 a.m.

It was a cold Saturday in State College, but emotions ran high with all the Michigan State Spartan faithful that made the journey from all over the country to Penn State in hopes of seeing MSU clinch its first Big Ten championship football championship since 1990.

The Campus

Overall, MSU and PSU’s campuses were quite similar. There was just one substantial difference between the two.

PSU is seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Therefore, the downtown area of the university is quite larger than that of MSU, which has surrounding areas like Okemos and Lansing for example.

Downtown State College featured numerous shops, bookstores, local restaurants, and bars. There were also chain restaurants like McDonalds, Jimmy Johns, and Dunkin Donuts.

The actual campus of Penn State, however, had a lot in common with MSU’s, except for the fact that Penn State is set in a rural atmosphere, with mountains surrounding it. This is compared to Michigan State which is in a suburban area and is more “city-like.”

“Having been to every Big Ten campus,” said Jack Doyle, a 1993 graduate of MSU, “I would have to say that MSU rates near the top compared with other Big Ten settings. However, Penn State stands alone atop the list with its scenic backdrop of mountains and the myriad of shops, restaurants, and bars that line its two main streets.”

Tailgating Scene

Tailgating is an MSU tradition like no other on football Saturdays. Many Spartans think differently of PSU’s tailgating environment.

“Game day atmosphere was disappointing,” said Andrew Huizinga, a member of the MSU class of 2002. “The tailgating scene was very low-key. There were a lot of empty seats, and there just did not seem to be much of a ‘buzz’ around campus,” Andrew Huizinga, MSU computer engineering major with the class of 2002.

Doyle, who agreed with Huizinga’s thoughts, said, “Tailgating is better at MSU, where there are hundreds of little areas to set up around campus so you’re never really that far from Spartan Stadium. In State College, the parking is easy in, easy out, but you’re so far away from the heart of campus that it does not feel like tailgating on a college campus.”

Despite MSU fans’ disappointment with the tailgating scene at Penn State, it has been voted one of Sports Illustrated’s “best college tailgates” numerous times, most recently in 2006.

I tend to agree with their assessment. At MSU, there is a wealth of on-campus parking, all of which is within walking distance to Spartan Stadium. On the other hand at PSU, there is not so much on-campus parking which causes tailgating to be more “subdued” that it is at MSU.

The “In-Stadium Experience”

PSU plays in Beaver Stadium, which holds nearly 110,000 people, which is over 30,000 more than Spartan Stadium holds. However, there were only about 70,000 fans that showed up for the MSU-PSU game.

“Spartan Stadium has a better ‘in-stadium’ atmosphere, with the MSU band providing most of the sound,” Doyle said. “Beaver Stadium piped in a lot of its music and that reminded me of an NFL game, where the crowd relies on external entertainment sources to generate its excitement.”

Huizinga agreed.

“Beaver Stadium is extremely odd,” he said. “It’s obvious that they have had numerous additions but none of them fit in with the others. It’s almost like they took five different stadiums and stuck them together.”

John Hallinger, a PSU junior disagrees mightily with their assessments.

“There is nothing quite like the mass of humanity that overtakes State College on a football weekend,” Hallinger said. “Regardless of the outcome, every football game comes with a warming sense of camaraderie unlike anything I have ever experienced.”

In addition, there was a lot of Joe Paterno “worship” throughout the game. For example, they announced the attendance as “there have now been X number of fans that have experienced a Joe Paterno coached game at Beaver Stadium.”

One of the things that I look forward to the most was the crazy student section that I have heard all about at Penn State.

I was left disappointed.

Students decided not to come back home from Thanksgiving break early (despite having the whole week off), and a portion of the student section was empty. I expected more from the PSU students, yet I was underwhelmed.

It was a long, tiring day.

Waking up at 4:00 a.m. on the weekend is something seemingly crazy and unheard of for a college student to do.

However, the time spent at State College and on PSU’s campus was one of the most fun days I’ve had in a while.

About 15 hours, and about $100 later, reveling with the Spartans that made the trip to State College, networking and tailgating with alumni, and watching the Spartans win the Big Ten for the first time in 20 years will be something I will not soon forget.

SOURCES:

Interviewed at the game / tailgate:

Andrew Huizinga: 30 years old, BS computer engineering 2002, MS Electrical Engineering 2003. Currently lives in San Diego, CA cfo@msusandiego.com

Jack Doyle: 1993 MSU grad in Political Science. Currently account director for Consumer Insights, Inc. jack@consumerinsightsinc.com

John Hallinger: PSU junior 609.610.6979

Infographics / Audio Slideshow / Video:

Audio Slideshow:

Video:

Map:

Musical Slideshow:

 

 

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Our code of ethics

  1. Seek and report truth
    1. We will correct errors in a timely manner and will be clear about what the error was, when we corrected it, and why a correction was necessary
    2. We will not use a source’s quote out of context
  2. Remain fair and unbiased
    1. We will remain detached from political affiliations
    2. We will always attempt to get a differing opinion on a story
      1. If someone cannot be reached, we will state which methods we used in trying to contact them, how many times we tried, if they declined to comment or did not respond to our inquiries, etc.
  3. Transparency
    1. We will be clear about who we are, what our biases may be, why we created the website
    2. We will make distinctions between hard news articles and opinion pieces
  4. Attribution
    1. When citing links, we will make sure the URL goes to the page we wish to direct people to
    2. We will make sure the information we source is correct
  5. Accessibility
    1. As this is a community website, all readers should have access to our content and have the ability to comment on the posts, pages, etc.
    2. Community interaction can help make our website more successful and keep our content fair and accurate
  6. Taking responsibility for content
    1. We will double-check our facts, including figures from sources
    2. We will be fair when we collect our information
      1. We will not steal or fabricate information, photos, video, etc.
      2. We will not plagiarize
  7. Do not take compensation from sources, companies, etc.
    1. This can give readers a reason to question objectivity of the journalist
  8. Avoid using anonymous sources
    1. Anonymous sources will be avoided and only used in extremely rare cases
    2. If someone asks f or anonymity, we will ask them why they want it
    3. Anonymous sources will not be used when stating opinion
  9. Abide by our own personal morals and ethics
    1. Before posting a story, we will ask ourselves…
      1. Who will be helped by our story?
      2. Who will be hurt?
      3. What is the objective of my story?
      4. Why am I writing this?
      5. Can I look myself in the mirror tomorrow after posting the story?
      6. Can I justify this story to my family and friends?
      7. How would I feel if put in the same situation?

Where we got ideas for our code of ethics
Best Practice for Bloggers: Dimensions for Consideration
Society for Professional Journalists Code of Ethics
New York Times Code of Ethics
National Public Radio Code of Ethics
Ethics discussed in our journalism lecture

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Updated Beat Report & Multimedia Info

By: Andrew Atwal

Nov. 11, 2010

TECHNOLOGY & MULTIMEDIA

  • Using Google Maps (When Relevant) to show the highlighted area of issue / proposed (see Mt. Hope Crossings report with Google Map on Okemos Community Website)
  • Use more video (have not used at all to this point in the semester), to make website more visually appealing and not as “blah” for visitors
  • Have pictures as part of news stories to give readers something to look at, aside from just text of an article. Ultimately pictures will help enhance articles

o   Going along with pictures, can use Sound Slides (Slide show with narration) to help enhance website

o   Collages?

o   Slide Shows

  • Mapping of Data in area (if possible)
  • Graphs of data (also, if possible)
  • Charts

 

BEAT REPORT UPDATED

  • School Board meetings that I’ve attended throughout the semester to this point seemed to bring out the passion in people on issues they’ve really believed in

o   Okemos School Board potential cuts: What to Cut?? Why Cut This? Etc

o   People truly care about issues relevant to them and the community; they want the best for their kids and other community members

  • Planning Commission Meeting

o   People, again, showed passion about the potential new apartment / office building complex to be on Hagadorn & Mt Hope Roads.

o   Some citizens voiced their displeasure with the project while others seemed to “come around” to it and are more open to it than they were with DTN’s last proposal

o   Again, citizens showed passion about the project, regardless of whether they were for the proposal or against it.

  • INFORMATION ABOUT OKEMOS / MERIDIAN TOWNSHIP

o   Demographics

§  2007 population: 22,719

  • 48% male, 52% female

§  Median Age: 35.3

§  2008 Household Income: $69,762

  • Up about $7,000 from 2000

§  80% White, 11% Asian Alone, 5% black alone, 1% Hispanic

§  Home Sales in Okemos: Declined 2005-2009

§  97% of population has High School degree or higher

§  56.9% of population of Okemos NOW Married

o   SCHOOL BOARD INFO:

§  Deb Baughman

§  Amy Crites

§  Jeffrey S. Theuer

§  Ronald J. Styka

§  Peter Trezise

§  Superintendant: Catherine Ash

§  School Board meets every second & fourth Monday of each month at 7:00 p.m.

o   Okemos High School

§  Located on Jolly Road

§  1,500 Students

§  Facing Potential Budget Cuts

§  7:50-2:40 School Day

§  Principal: Christine Sermak

o   Other Information

§  Police Chief (Meridian Township): David Hall

§  Judges: Thomas P. Boyd & Donald J. Allen Jr.

 

 

 

 

 

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Updated Okemos Beat Report

Sean Kellehan — Nov. 11,2010

Okemos is a community unlike others in the area. Some would say that it’s just a mailing address, because it’s not classified as a city, village, or even a town, it’s just a “community.” All of the government services and leadership required to keep Okemos running are provided by Meridian Township. That being said though, the Okemos Public School District plays a large role in the community. According to Ronald Styka, president of the Okemos Public Schools School Board, one thing Okemos does have is a school district that helps give the community an identity.

People choose to live in Okemos for a variety of reasons. One being the good school district (which features an alternative Montessori elementary school). Another reason is because it’s a friendly, safe, suburban community. Okemos resident and MSU faculty Craig Gunn likes Okemos because he’s able to live in a woodsy area, while still being close to downtown. He also feels that he gets benefits from what he pays taxes for, which is not always the case in certain communities.

Okemos, which originally started out as a farming community, is a natural place, that even fought to keep out a Wal-Mart super center.

That being said, Okemos is not free of issues. Keeping the area “natural” can become very costly. According to Gunn, there’s also an issue of overspending on open ground, usually close to township elected officials. The community, like many, is also struggling to keep the quality of their schools up in the face of declining state financial support. In fact, Okemos schools was forced to reorganize their whole district this year, which lead to many cuts and a lot of upset citizens.

The Meridian Township Government is also facing budget issues. Particularly in the Police and Fire departments. The township tried to avoid cutting services in both those departments recently by proposing a Headlee override on November’s election ballot. The override would allow the township to raise the mill rate and levee more taxes from property owners. By a tight margin, the override didn’t pass, which means cuts to the departments will soon be seen.

  • Okemos Facts
    • Geographic size: 16.8 sq mi
      • Population: 22,805
    • Demographic make-up
      • Racial (based on 2000 Census)
        • 84.01% White
        • 8.68% Asian
        • 4.20% Black or African American
        • 0.33% Native American
        • 0.04% Pacific Islander
        • 0.61% Other races
        • 2.12% Two or more races
      • Family
        • 52.3% Married couples
        • 6.7% Single Female
        • 38.6% non-families
        • Average household size 2.44
        • Average family 3.04
      • Age
        • 23.9% Under 18
        • 14.5% 18 to 24
        • 26.0% 25 to 44
        • 25.9% 45 to 64
        • 9.8% Over 65
        • Media age 35 years
      • Sex
        • For every 100 females, 93.5 males
        • For every 100 females 18+, 90.1 males
      • Income
        • Median Income $62,810 ($75,736 as of 2007)
          • For family $88,459 ($101,903 as of 2007)
          • Males: $60,601 Females: $41,393
        • Per capita income $33,401
        • 3.3% of families and 9.6% of pop are below poverty line
  • Major industries
    • Okemos Public School District
    • Meijer
    • Velocity Fit Club
    • Traveler’s Club International Restaurant and Tuba Museum
  • Historical information
    • Started out as the settlement of Hamilton, founded in 1839 by Freeman Bray as a trading point with surrounding Ojibwa people.
    • In 1859, one year after the death of Chief John Okemos, the city was reamed Okemos to honor the Native American Chief.
    • Originally a farming community.
  • Politics—how does your community function—who has power?
    • The community is governed by the Meridian Township Board of Trustees, including a township manager that works closely with the board. All of their services are provided by Meridian township. The Okemos School District plays a large role in the community. The community also falls under the jurisdiction of the 55th District Court of Michigan.
  • Who controls the money?
    • Money is handled by the Meridian Township Board of Trustees and the Okemos Public School system

  • Schools
    • Four elementary schools (three traditional, one pubic Montessori), one 5-6 school, one 7-8 school, one high school
    • The school district went through a restructuring that went into effect at the beginning of the fall semester
      • Closed two elementary schools Edgewood and Wardcliff
      • Moved the Montessori to the Central building
      • Restructured the middle schools from 6-8, to one 5-6, and one 7-8
      • Elementary schools also changed from K-6 to K-5
    • The reorganization and other budget cuts has caused issues with busing kids to school, which the board has temporarily remedied
  • Who is:
    • Township Manager (Meridian Township)
      • Gerald J. Richards
    • The police chief (Meridian Township)
      • David Hall
    • Okemos School Board
      • Ron Styka(President)
      • Deb Baughman
      • Amy Crites
      • Andrew Saultz
        • Jeff Theuer
        • Peter Trezise
    • Okemos Schools Superintendent
      • Catherine Ash
    • Board of Trustees (Meridian Township)
      • Susan McGillicuddy (Supervisor)
      • Mary M. G. Helmbrecht, CMC (Clerk)
      • Julie Brixie (Treasurer)
      • Brett Dreyfus (Trustee)
      • Elizabeth LeGoff (Trustee)
      • Lynn J. Ochberg (Trustee)
      • John Veenstra (Trustee)
    • Judges (55th District Court of Michigan)
      • Thomas P. Boyd (Chief Judge)
      • Donald L. Allen, Jr.
    • Non-profits, community foundations
  • Calendar of important civic events
    • School board meetings
      • Board meetings are conducted the second and fourth Monday of each month at 7:00 P.M
    • Rotary meeting (Haslettokemosrotary.org)
      • Meetings take place second Tuesday of every month at 8:00 am in the Delta Dental building.
    • Board of Trustees Meeting (Zoning, tax, budget meetings).




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Okemos beat report, part 2

By Annie Perry
Nov. 11, 2010

An edited version of my beat report, including demographics, business and employment data, upcoming events and information about the school district.

Continue reading

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Why didn’t the Headlee pass?

Sean Kellehan—Nov. 4, 2010

I was recently assigned to do a story about the recently-passed elections. Given the importance to the community, I decided to do a story on the Headlee override that was put on the ballot of Meridian Township.

Through previous interviews with city officials about different stories, I had learned a fair amount about the proposal. From that knowledge, I thought, “there’s no way this can’t pass, no one ever takes away money from police or fire.”

Boy was I wrong.

Checking the election results Wednesday I utterly surprised to see that the Headlee Override had not passed but 1%. Sure it’s basically 50/50 so really it’s not terrible, but the bottom line is it didn’t pass.

Well this outcome obviously intrigued me, so I tried to figure out why people would be opposed to a proposal like this. While researching and interviewing for my article I was given a variety of reasons why it probably did pass by my sources.

One source said it might have been because of confusing wording on the ballot, or maybe because people don’t see the impact. Those were all good possible reasons, but at the end, he said the one I was expecting, it would have raised taxes.

Why are people so against raising taxes in this country? I mean no one likes paying more money to the government, but then those same people are the ones who complain about the crappy roads and the fact that some of the services the government gives them that they depend on are getting cut.

It’s a very simple concept, you get what you pay for, but people are either refusing to acknowledge that fact or they think, it’s different because they’re my government and it’s their problem to figure out, but it’s not.

I understand the argument that people don’t always immediately see the consequences of cutting money from the government. But without the money that the Headlee override would have provided, there will be a noticeable change. I just hope it’s noticeable enough for citizens to reconsider.

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Voter turnout in Meridian Township

By Annie Perry
Nov. 3, 2010

I didn’t vote on Tuesday.

It’s not that I don’t care. I’ve done research, I’ve talked with people about their political beliefs, and I’ve developed my own sense of what I want for Michigan.

I forgot to register.

I know, it’s pretty lame. I turned 18 when I was a senior in high school, just two months after the 2008 presidential election. There was a day, maybe even a week, where a teacher went from classroom to classroom and asked the seniors if they wanted to register to vote. I don’t know if I wasn’t there that week or if I was completely oblivious to what was going on (which is definitely a possibility), but for some reason, I didn’t register.

I got information about registering earlier this year because I wanted to vote for the new governor. I filled out the form online. I repeatedly got RockTheVote text messages sent to my phone.

Did I ever print out my form and mail it in? Nope. I’d see the text message or email reminding me to do so and kept telling myself that I would do it later that day.

Well, that clearly worked.

When I was writing yesterday’s article, I talked to Sheryl Blanchard about her response to the election. She told me that when she was at the polling booth, she asked the people working there how the turnout was. They said the turnout at that precinct was the best it’s been in years.

I looked at the State of Michigan website, and 92,557 people in Ingham County voted on Tuesday, including manual entries. The Ingham County website confirms this number, which equates to almost 47 percent of registered voters.

This number, however, is down from the 2006 governor race, where almost 52 percent of registered voters cast ballots that day.

Why is it higher in one precinct, but lower for the rest of the county?

I looked on the Ingham County website to find information about specific precincts, but they haven’t posted it yet.

So what do you think?

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After 2 months…

Two months of covering Okemos

By: Andrew Atwal
Nov. 4, 2010

After two months of covering the Okemos community and also, in some regards, Meridian Township, I have learned a lot of things about the area that I had no idea would be the case going into this semester at Michigan State.

The people of Okemos, especially the ones that I talked to at one of the school board meetings are passionate. Passionate about their beliefs and what should or should not take place. The citizens that spoke up at the meeting had strong opinions on what they thought should be cut, or reduced, from next years school budget (some spoke about the Montessori program), and also had very strong opinions on the uproar that occurred at an earlier meeting stemming from a school board member being forced to resign.

As someone from the east coast, when I first came to visit Michigan State in high school I quickly got a taste of the mid western mentality. The people of the community in Meridian Township and Okemos embody this spirit as well; friendly, warm, and hospitable.

On Tuesday, the community had a decision to make about the future of Michigan. By rejecting the Headlee Amendment, citizens chose to not have their taxes increased, but which also might lead to more budget cuts. Citizens of Ingham County voted for a new governor of Michigan as well. The county voted for Democrat Virg Bernero, who previously was mayor of Lansing, by just about 400 votes. However, the citizens from the rest of Michigan chose Republican candidate Rick Snyder by a wide margin of about 18 percent. What this means for the future of towns like Okemos and Meridian Township is not yet known.

Although not the case in Ingham County, all across Michigan residents chose the republican candidates over democrats, which might mean a fundamental shift in the United States government for years to come.

However, not to divulge on everyone’s favorite subject of politics, I have thoroughly enjoyed covering Okemos over the past 2 months, and look forward to continuing to cover Okemos and Meridian Township for the next month.

The people of Okemos and Meridian Township have been nice enough to speak to me on many different issues and topics and have not been afraid to state their opinions on certain issues that they feel most strongly about.

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